Orange is the New Black: Lesbian Request Denied

"Why would anyone ever give up being a man? It's like winning the lottery and giving the ticket back."

This episode gave us some backstory on Sophia Burset. Taking away the meds she needed to maintain her new body was unbelievably cruel of prison management, and reeked of bigotry. I kept wanting to hug her.

The flashbacks showed Sophia as a male firefighter, hiding her true self under her clothes (pink bra), and stealing credit card numbers from a burned out building, definitely not a sweet thing to do. And yet, Sophia comes across as sweet, as well as courageous. We can understand Sophia's desperation, her need to become her true self no matter the cost. ("I've given five years, eighty thousand dollars, and my freedom for this.")

And it cost her so very much. Sophia's wife Crystal still loves her; that was such a sweet flashback scene where Crystal helped Sophia learn how to dress. But it also included Crystal begging Sophia to at least just keep her penis. When present day Sophia asked Crystal to smuggle in meds for her, Crystal just couldn't take that step, and who could blame her?

It was even sadder to see Sophia with her angry son Michael, who was unable to even look at his father, much less accept her. It ended painfully with Michael turning Sophia in and watching the cops take her away. How incredibly painful for Sophia. And yet, she is coping, and she still has principles. She won't prostitute herself to Pornstache for her meds. Not yet, anyway. Not ever, hopefully.

Does Sophia belong in prison? She certainly did the crime and was aware that what she was doing was wrong. And yet, it's hard not to sympathize with her reasons. Although I sympathize a bit more with her wife Crystal, who is raising their son alone, working two jobs and is losing her house. We must all be super careful whom we fall in love with, huh?

To continue with our unhappy lesbian wife theme, Piper was actively stalked by the love-sick Crazy Eyes, who leered at Piper while she was peeing, carried a sick-looking dandelion around and recited her own passionate love poetry. Chocolate and vanilla, swirrrllllll. Piper made the huge mistake of using Crazy Eyes's adoration to strike back at Alex in the cafeteria. Piper, you can't come back from that. Crazy Eyes threw her pie for you. (Crazy Eyes was also cut from the "puppy program". I really don't want to know why.)

Interestingly, in an episode where Piper fended off another woman's passes, they gave us some key scenes with Piper and Alex that made it look very much as if Piper is the lesbian that she keeps saying she's not. Piper said that Alex stole her new, good, heterosexual life from her, while Alex swore with passionate-appearing honesty that she never named Piper, that Piper had loved breaking the law, and that Piper broke her heart. The charming flashback to the first time they met included Piper looking for a waitressing job with a resume full of lies, and Alex telling Piper the absolute truth about her criminal self. I think this flashback was intended to make us curious about who is really on the up and up, and what sort of person Piper really is. Piper asked Larry to find out if Alex really did give her up. I'm curious, too.

Finally, Watson completely alienated Miss Claudette, her new roommate, and Miss Claudette had enough of an "in" with the guards to get Watson transferred. Did Miss Claudette actually choose Piper as her new roomie? I doubt it. Earlier in the episode, Piper was laughing at what three of the black inmates were saying in the cafeteria line, and all of them glared at her as if she didn't have the right. And now all of her roommates are black. I guess the writers think Piper isn't out of place quite enough yet.

Everyone thinks Miss Claudette is such a bad ass. I keep getting the impression that she's not. But she's probably not going to take Crazy Eyes pissing all over her clean floor lightly.

Character bits:

-- Crazy Eyes's real name is Suzanne Warren, a simple, pretty name. She is played by Uzo Aduba, who did an awesome job in this episode.

-- Pornstache thinks that every woman in the prison is hot for him but doesn't see the contradiction that he has to pay for sex with favors. I don't think they could have made his character any more disgusting if they tried. What a terrific actor.

-- Sophie wears size 13 duct tape shower shoes. Nice touch.

-- Larry is only visiting every other week so he can have a life, Piper's words. Loved the phone sex with groceries scene. (I especially loved the woman on the next phone crying through the whole thing.) I'm just waiting for the Piper/Larry relationship to blow up. Neither of them love each other enough to keep it going. And of course, there is Alex.

-- Piper's unfortunate brother Cal now has his parents' full attention. At least he's aware of his own shortcomings.

-- Cal told Larry about "edging" and of course, Larry had to run home and try it. Very American Pie.

-- Diaz likes to draw.

-- Diaz had a moment with the nice guard Bennett when she got her cross tanged with her shirt. (Did she do that on purpose?) They are adorable together and so heading for a secret love affair.

-- The despicable Healy thinks that butch women should be separated and kept in an area away from "normal-looking" women. Funny how he can't make that happen, huh?


-- This is the sort of episode where you want to know about the actors. Laverne Cox (Sophia) is indeed a transwoman and an activist. Her twin brother M. Lamar played Sophia in the flashbacks when she was Marcus.

-- There was penis-chopping symbolism throughout the episode. Red chopped a cucumber in half and talked about the inmates stealing oblong vegetables. Cal and Larry were spearing hot dogs. And Sophia got herself into the infirmary by swallowing the top of a bobblehead.

-- Loved the little scene where Piper finally got her commissary and played Santa Claus with her friends. Now she has the joy of actual shower shoes. Everything is relative.

-- Sophia wasn't the only one who lost something. The budget cuts mean that Piper can no longer run on the track, something she clearly loves.

-- In the "prison is another world" department, Piper's mother kept making observations about life in prison that hurt Piper's feelings. And Polly kept talking about problems that Piper couldn't relate to.

-- Cal told Larry that he thought Piper would act out someway, someday. Alex said that Piper wanted to feel different and special.

-- Alex rubbed Red's feet for forty-five minutes to get back in her favor again. I'm glad they didn't ignore what happened to Alex in the last episode.

-- Sophia advised Piper to avoid the lines by using the bathroom at 5:00. But Alex uses the bathroom at 5:00. Did Sophia do that deliberately?

Quotes, and I left out a ton of them because this section is too long:

Nicky: "I did my time in SHU. How much longer are they going to keep me in here with Darth Vader and Mister Clean?"
What a lovely show of sensitivity, Nicky.

P.A.: "Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement."

Sophia: "That's Satan's stall."
Piper: "At least Satan gets a door."

Pornstache: "You can suck it out of my dick."
Sophia: "I don't do sausage in my breakfast sandwich."

Pornstache: "Cyborg pussy. Bet it's fucking perfect."
And Dan said, "At least he's an equal opportunity asshole."

P.A.: "Maxi pads with wings are back in the commissary."

Piper: "I'm not your wife."
Crazy Eyes: "I threw my pie for you."

Piper's mother: "What did you do with your hair?"
Piper: "I had to give it to a transsexual."

Piper's mother: "Everything around here is so sticky."

Polly: "The whole way up she hummed Edith Piaf songs and ate pistachios. You owe me."

Healy: "Lesbians can be very dangerous. It's the testosterone."

Cal: "Those are my friends, my beans and my banjo. And I'm banging this underwater welder. You gotta have hobbies."
I want to meet the underwater welder. Don't you?

Another terrific episode. Three out of four root vegetables, or four out of four?

Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.


ChrisB said...

What I have really liked about three of these first episodes is that each of the women whose story we know completely has committed a crime. Whether or not they deserve to be in jail is another story, but both Piper and Sophia are guilty. The false imprisonment thing would be an easy trap to fall into and I respect the story for not going there -- at least not yet.

The Sophia backstory was heartbreaking. I can't imagine the pain of being stuck in the wrong body, but how lucky that she had the support of her wife. I loved the scene where Crystal tells her that life as a woman is acceptable; life as a criminal is not. Told me everything I need to know about that woman -- all good.

I'm glad you mentioned the flashback of Piper and Alex meeting. It had occurred to me as well that Piper was lying and Alex was telling the unvarnished truth. I must admit that I believe that she didn't turn Piper in, but that is only based on that one scene.

The guy who plays Pornstache looked so familiar, but I couldn't place him. I finally resorted to imdb -- he was a main character in the second season of The Wire. Wow, that is range.

Suzanne said...

Great review and great episode.

Chris, thanks for the info on Pornstache. He looked so familiar to me, too, but I never got around to looking him up. Now it is obvious!

mazephoenix said...

Pablo Schreiber has just had a big arc on Law and order:SVU as a bad guy. He did a great job with being evil. Pornstache is not quite that evil. Yet. And, yes he's got range.